If you had already punted today upon finding out that the Mariners’ starter today was the Mariners’ bullpen, I can’t say I blame you. Yeah, 26-year-old rookie and former UberEats driver Reggie McClain was slated as the opener, that’s interesting, but Seattle’s bullpen still is in the bottom five league-wide. Trusting them to keep the Blue Jays’ potent young offense under control seemed like too much to ask - after all, when was the last time you had a seven-person group project that went even remotely smoothly?
Against all odds, they pulled it off.
McClain’s intro was perfectly passable, and he needed just eight pitches to deal with the vaunted trio of Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. in the first. Though he gave up a hit to Bichette to open the inning and moved him to second on his own pickoff error, McClain was able to calmly and deftly nab him trying to take third:
Blue Jays starter Trent Thornton came into today sporting a high 9.2% BB%, and he was wild to kick off the game, walking four in his first two innings. Sadly, he was able to weasel out with just one run allowed on a Keon Broxton sac fly in the second, though Tim Lopes gave a pitch a good ride with two outs and the bases loaded only for it to find a glove. Boo.
McClain’s second inning of work proved to be more laborious. After he grabbed two quick outs from Rowdy Tellez and Randal Grichuk, old friend (or “friend” depending on who’s reading this) Justin Smoak smacked a double just out of Dylan Moore, Right Fielder’s reach. A full-count walk to Derek Fisher and a Billy McKinney knock later, and the game was again tied. With a groundout to local kid Reese McGuire ending his outing, McClain gave way to elder statesman Cory Gearrin, who also turned in a solid B outing despite some questionable strike calls.
The bats didn’t stay dormant for long, either. Austin Nola obliterated this ball to snatch back the lead in the fourth, and Broxton chipped in with another sac fly:
Austin Nola is sitting on an even 1 fWAR in just 126 plate appearances. His wRC+ is 133, the power is looking more real by the game, and he’s shown a strong glove at first base while being a decent backup at second. With a roster suddenly flush with decent utility options, he has been by far the best hitter, and should have the inside track on a bench spot coming into 2020. Player development win or old rookie on a hot streak? Either way, it’s been a fun story throughout the past couple months.
Once Gearrin exited, the Mariners made history. New lefty Taylor Guilbeau came in with two outs in the fourth, becoming the /deep breath/ 62nd player, 40th pitcher, and 16th player to make their big league debut for the 2019 Seattle Mariners. Guilbeau make a good first impression, as well, inducing three straight groundouts to the bottom third of Toronto’s order and hitting 95 with ease.
Alas, he couldn’t quite escape the fifth. After five pitches to Bichette that were all down or out of the zone, Guilbeau left a slider just a liiiiittle too over the plate...
Cavan Biggio immediately followed with a base hit, and Guilbeau gave way to Zac Grotz, who promptly gave up a ground-rule double to Brandon Drury, who came in to replace Vladito after an awkward play in the hole led to some knee discomfort. Bummer for Toronto! Thanfully, Grotz evaded any further trouble by way of an easy groundout, and worked a scoreless sixth in which he notched Seattle’s first strikeout of the day. He was also helped by Deeeeeeeeeee:
It was Anthony Bass’s job to start the back half of the project in the seventh, but that immediately went wrong:
This was the equivalent of a power outage right as you’re finishing page seven of a ten-page report without saving in three hours. Ughhhhh. Bass rebounded quickly, getting Bichette on an routine play at short and striking out Biggio and Drury, but the damage was done.
The deadline was creeping, and the bullpen would need any help it could get if they wanted to pass this project Thankfully, Professor Seager was kind enough to grant an extension...
...and their friend J.P. did Sam Tuivailala a huge solid:
Matt Magill was in charge of the conclusion, and man, was he ready to get it over with. He needed just seven pitches to strike out Fisher and McKinney, each of them 96 MPH fastballs. Six were swung at. Six were missed. Just electric. He did stutter a little towards the end, allowing a double to McGuire and falling into a battle with Bichette, but after some encouragement from an audience member...
...he nailed the last line of the presentation, and the group project was finished.
+ ️ pic.twitter.com/XwJz4bnXM2— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) August 17, 2019
With the win, the Mariners moved back into a half-game ahead - or is it behind? - of the Blue Jays in the draft pick standings. That’s okay, though! It’s still fun to see your team win. Yusei Kikuchi goes against a Wilmer Font/Thomas Pannone tandem tomorrow morning, which almost feels like a push. Regardless, it should be less stressful than a group project.